Shadow grey engineered oak floor and abstract bed throw

This is a paid partnership with Havwoods. 

Have you noticed our plaster pink bedroom walls have been replaced with a cocooning beige? There’s also a sophisticated, engineered oak floor down too! Yes, the floorers came last week to lay our Havwoods planks and I’m in love with how different it makes the room feel. I know what you’re going to say. Why didn’t we sand and stain the original floors then? Good question. I remember being on a shoot a few years back and the assistant stylist told me the best thing she ever did in their Victorian home was to put wood flooring over the top of the original. It made such a difference to the warmth of the house, she said. As a restoration purist, I was a little horrified. Why would you cover up such a beautiful piece of history?!

Our half decorated beige bedroom waiting for the engineered oak floor to arrive.

A last look at the original boards before the floor goes down.

Now I get it. Firstly, what we’ve been calling the original floor was only ever meant to be a base for the now long gone floor at the time to sit on top of. A subfloor. That explains the gaps under the skirting which show where that floor would’ve been. And it’s draughty. Having been through the very messy, time-consuming process of finishing the kitchen floor ourselves, we just wanted the job done and with a much warmer finish.

Our Shadow Grey engineered oak floor click-system laid on top of the underlay

Halfway through laying the Shadow Grey Karelia planks onto the underlay.

Why Choose An Engineered Oak Floor Over Laminate

In all honesty, I’m not a fan of laminate flooring. It’s a throwback from the 90s when everyone had that blonde wood effect planking that bubbled and marked really easily. There’s no doubt that laminate has come a long way since then and with better printing technologies it’s difficult to spot the difference now. Here’s the thing though. Laminate is typically made from a composition of melamine resin and fibre board topped with a printed, laminated image to look like wood, but wood it is not. It’s not remotely eco-friendly and has a lifespan of around 20 years. Although it’s possible to replace planks if they need repair, you can’t refinish them if they need maintenance.

There’s a new level of upheaval and added cost with a solid wood floor, so in an effort to stick with ethical products and honour the age of the house, an engineered oak flooring felt like a good compromise. It’s important to us that we know the provenance of what we have in our home and all Havwoods products are traceable and certified. Unlike laminate, it’s all wood. It can last a lifetime and will take sanding and refinishing several times if necessary. Each plank is completely different too; the oak on our floor has a beautiful wavy grain with a smattering of ‘pips and burrs’. It has a wonderful texture under foot and frankly, there’s no competition.

Decisions, Decisions and The Karelia Range

Earlier in the year, I visited the Havwoods showroom in Clerkenwell. A treasure trove full to the brim of floor samples, from solid parquet and reclaimed planks to HDF Composite, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

TIP: My advice would be to have some understanding of the look and feel you’re aiming for to help narrow it down, even if all you can say is you want the floor to look warm, classic farmhouse.

Going in with a contemporary, Nordic look in mind with a touch of grey, it was almost a gut feeling when I was shown Shadow Grey (188) from the Karelia range. This collection is a click system, made from European oak, with a 3.5mm lamella (that’s the oak top) and a double base layer of Finnish spruce. The square edge on the planks gives the floor a contemporary luxe feel – however other designs in the Karelia range have a bevelled edge.

I took a couple of different samples home just for comparison, but not surprisingly having let it sit in the room for a few days we were unanimously for the Shadow Grey. Yes, it was pretty hard to imagine a whole floor from one sample piece, but the lifestyle images from The Wood Book helped piece it together.

Our Havwoods engineered oak floor in Shadow Grey blends with our beige bedroom walls.

A whole new room. The finished floor and new MDF skirting waiting to be painted.

Floating vs. Gluing Installation

You’ve got two choices when you’re laying an engineered floor – glueing it down to the underlay or floating it on top. There are pros and cons for both but ultimately we decided to float it which will allow the wood to breathe and move without fighting against glue. This does mean there’s an element of bounce to the floor but I prefer knowing it has room to shift without buckling.

Skirting Options

Normally when you have a new floor fitted the existing boards are removed, but in this case, having already plastered the walls we didn’t want to open a new can of worms. In older properties, the skirting can be cut into to fit in the new floor underneath, but I wasn’t keen on that for the same reason. We didn’t like scotia or other more decorative trimmings, so the floorers suggested adding an MDF skirting on top of the old ones (which we’d already painted, gah!). Slightly lower than the old boards, when painted they’d look a little more ornate but you’d never tell the difference. Needless to say, we went with that.

TIP: Make sure you use a paint that’s suitable for MDF as it absorbs a lot. We used a primer first before going on with our Valspar colour.

Now we’re into the final week of finishing the snag list, hanging lights, screwing in handles and all the small details before it’ll be ready to move into properly. Can’t wait to show you the full transformation!

Our cat inspects the new Havwoods engineered oak floor in Shadow Grey in our beige bedroom.

Moesy inspects the job after the floorers leave and the hearth awaits new tiles.

Photography © Tiffany Grant-Riley

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